Once you pass the bar, relatives, friends, and acquaintances come out of the woodwork with legal problems. Many of these people expect free advice or representation because of your relationship with them. Depending on the strength of the relationship, most lawyers feel compelled to help either for free or at reduced cost. There are a number of things to consider before working at a reduced rate.

Define who qualifies

Does the family rate apply to direct family members only? Be sure you decide beforehand, because another family member may call you down the road asking for the same rate. As far as friends, it is almost impossible to determine where to draw the line. This can result in the same problem as family members, a “not-so-good” friend might ask for the rate you gave a “good friend.” Explaining the difference can be a tricky proposition.

Will they value your service?

Even close family might take you for granted if you work for free, or at a reduced rate. The majority will hopefully be thankful, but some family members might not place a high value on your services.

Be prepared for the worst case scenario

The case or issue might seem simple at first glance, but things can change in a hurry. Do not tell your cousin you can settle a case, only to find yourself in the middle of a trial. Having to explain to Uncle Steve that he has testify could be a nightmare. Whatever happens, you will still see these people on a regular basis. Make sure you are prepared to deal with the repercussions of their case.

Working for family and friends can be great, or a nightmare. If you are going to work at a reduced rate, be sure to think it through.

(photo: JoshLawton)

1 Comment

  1. I found Foonberg’s advice in “How to Start and Build a Law Practice” helpful: when the work is done, send the family member/friend a bill, with your regular rate, and the total. Then subtract the “Family (or) Friends Discount,” showing how much they saved. Then they’ll know what you will charge others, and how much they should value what you did.

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